This section gives information on the PhD first year review process.
For information on the annual review form within EUCLID see the Annual Review system page:
The first year of a PhD is considered to be probationary, and is assessed by the End of First Year Review Board.
The Board is an opportunity to evaluate:
- whether the candidate is capable of doing a PhD
- whether the work is sufficiently developed, and of the required standard, to justify confirmation of PhD registration
The Review facilitates support and timely completion of the research by ensuring that students proceed only when they have acquired the necessary expertise.
The Review is a genuine hurdle, but the preparation provided by the Research Training courses, coupled with guidance from supervisors and PG advisor, provide the support needed.
All full-time PhD candidates should have their review board within 9 to 12 months of enrolment on the PhD programme.
Occasionally it may take place slightly earlier, particularly if an MSc by research has been completed prior to beginning the PhD.
Part-time students operate to the same timescale as full-time students, however they will not be expected to have made as much progress within this time.
Additionally there is the option to defer the progression decision and/or confirmation of registration to the second annual review.
The Review is carried out by a Board which normally consists of:
- both supervisors
- one or two 'external' examiners
These staff members will usually be from within the Subject Area/Centre.
The 'external' examiners should not have been involved to any significant extent, either academically or administratively, with the student.
The composition of the panel can vary slightly between subject areas, this can be confirmed with the Postgraduate Advisor for your Subject Area/Centre.
There is no formal University requirement for any of the examiners at a PhD First Year Review Board to be external to the School, although it could include someone from outside the School or the University, if appropriate.
The University guidance is in section 3.2 of the Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students. It lays out the process and explains what you should expect.
In advance of the board, you should complete your section of the online annual review form and submit a written full research proposal to the online system and email a copy to your Board members.
- specifies the research question and locates it in the appropriate academic literature
- fully elaborates the research design, methodology and anticipated contribution to knowledge
- discusses ethical, political and practical issues
- includes a timetable and a programme of work
As a guide, this should be around 12-15,000 words.
Your report is required to be submitted to Turnitin by your supervisor and the similarity report made available to the board members prior to the meeting.
Please ensure you raise this requirement with your supervisor in a timely manner to ensure the report is available.
In addition to submitting the proposal in advance of the meeting of the Board, you may choose to make a short oral presentation.
The meeting discusses the proposal – asking questions, giving constructive feedback and making suggestions.
It may last for up to 2 hours, to allow enough time for a full assessment of the work, of the student, and of the supervisory team.
After the review meeting, the Principal and/or Lead Co supervisor will complete their section of the online annual review form and upload the minute and/or report of the review board meeting.
This report makes clear the recommendation and the basis of the decision. This report is confirmed by all members of the review board, including the student.
Information on the recommendations available to the review panel are available in the Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students and the Postgraduate Assessment Regulation for Research Degrees, and outlined below.
Postgraduate Assessment Regulations for Research Degrees:
Extract from the Postgraduate Assessment Regulations for Research Degrees:
Regulation 14 | Annual progression review recommendation
(a) confirmation of registration, for example for PhD, MPhil;
(b) a repeat progression review must be undertaken within three months before confirmation of progression;
(c) for part-time students only for the first progression review: deferment of the confirmation decision to the second annual review;
(d) registration for a different research degree such as MPhil or MSc by Research;
(e) registration for a postgraduate taught degree (for example MSc) or diploma can be recommended if the student has undertaken the coursework for that qualification;
(f) exclusion from study.
Where a serious problem is identified or discontinuation is considered, the Review Board will normally write a report stating where the proposal is deficient and explaining what work needs to be done to bring the proposal up to the required standard.
A second review will be arranged at which the student has the chance to present a revised proposal.
If the outcome of the annual review is 14(b) then the three month period starts from the date of issue of the progression decision to the student.
The outcomes of a repeat are the same as for the initial review, with the exception of 14(b) - only one repeat review may be undertaken.
If the Review Panel still finds that the student has not met the required standard, then discontinuation will be recommended.
Section 3.2 of the University Code of Practice for Supervisors and Research Students outlines the procedures in full.
After the board review you should ensure that you have:
- completed the online Research Ethics form
- asked your supervisor to submit a Leave of Absence form on your behalf if you are intending to leave Edinburgh for research purposes/fieldwork
- completed the online Overseas Travel and Risk Assessment form, if you are conducting your fieldwork overseas
Any queries regarding the administrative procedures can be directed to the PG Research team () in the Graduate School Office: